Pricing Psychology

[Note: I started this post last week. Reading it today, it seems a bit "train of thought" and perhaps rambles a bit; I'm not sure if it even gets to the point I set out to make. But I'm posting it anyway.]

It’s no secret that I’ve become a fan of, shall we say, alternate pricing arrangements for my entertainment. MMOs in particular, I find more and more difficult to justify a $15 monthly subscription simply on the basis that I know I won’t “get my money’s worth” out of any particular MMO in any given month. I’m in the travel industry, therefore I’m only home a couple days a week. Totaled, I am away from home roughly 8 months of the year.

The unfortunately-named “Free To Play” or F2P model is attractive to me at this point in time because, in theory, in allows me to play at my own pace and toss the devs a few bucks here and when I see fit if I decide their product is worthy of my dollars. I say “in theory” because we’re all-too-familiar with years of F2P systems that either routinely gate content behind a mandatory pay wall, or gouge players for mandatory consumables.

Guild Wars is my favorite model, and one which in another sense is similar to my experience on Xbox Live: buy the software once, play forever at no additional charge, and buy DLC for continued adventures. I am very interested to see how often Arena.net issues content updates for Guild Wars 2 which will also be using this model.

SiriusXM ran a promotion recently where they gave everyone two weeks of free satellite radio, along with a promotion to signup for $25 for 5 months, equating to $5/month compared to the normal $13/month. As I just mentioned above, I’m not home enough to justify $13/month for radio, no matter how many stations they offer. The longest I’m in my car is driving to and from the airport, twice a week, 30 minutes each. Otherwise nearly everything I need is within 10 minutes of my home. But for $5/month? That’s the cost of a Frappucino at Starbucks, so I can justify that to have a few months of new radio stations I couldn’t otherwise experience.

Bringing that back to MMOs, at this point in my life with not only limited time for gaming but so many gaming choices, both within and outside of the MMO genre, I feel developers or publishers need to continue their pricing experiments, perhaps offering a time-limited access for a substantially lower fee if they insist on subscriptions. I could foresee spending $5 to $7 (which is what a streaming-only Netflix subscription costs) per month for say, a block of 50 hours per month tops?

I look at everyone on Twitter playing RIFT and I can tell just from the scenery graphics I would enjoy the game (or at least the scenery) for awhile, but at the end of the day, it’s just another “level up, gear up” game that has and/or will have all the same problems every other vertical-progression MMO has. I may not have played RIFT‘s sub-systems but, to paraphrase Bartle, I’ve already played RIFT countless times and can’t justify $15/month on it when I consider the other MMO’s I’m already invested in plus all the other games I play in my limited time.

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